March 14, 2023, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. MDT

Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Recovery from Disaster

Soaking the Middle Class Image

Webinar Description:

Extreme weather is increasing in scale and severity as global warming worsens. While poorer communities are typically most vulnerable to the negative effects of disasters, even well-resourced communities will increasingly be affected as climate-related storms intensify and more people live in increasingly unsustainable places. Yet less is known about how middle-class communities are responding to these storms and the resulting damage. In their book Soaking the Middle Class, sociologists Anna Rhodes and Max Besbris followed 59 households in the middle-class suburb of Friendswood, Texas for over two years after Hurricane Harvey to understand their recovery process. The book highlights how disaster recovery fosters inequality, even in middle-class places. This webinar will focus on some key findings from the book, especially as they relate to the demand for equitable mitigation policies that stretch across social class boundaries.


Max Besbris, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Anna Rhodes, Rice University

Natural Hazards Center Overview Slides
Webinar Slides


New York Times: Losing Your Neighborhood to Climate Change Is Sometimes Necessary

Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Recovery from Disaster

Continuing Education Credits:

This webinar is eligible for one contact hour of emergency management training within the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) certification program OR one continuing education credit under the Association of State Floodplain Managers Certified Floodplain Manager Program. The webinar is not eligable for both credits, so please choose what type of credit you wish to recieve when you request your certificate following the webinar.

For more information about continuing education credits and how to earn them, please click here.

Max Besbris

Max Besbris is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where is also a faculty affiliate of the Center for Demography and Ecology and the Institute for Research on Poverty. He studies various housing market dynamics like valuation, segregation, and discrimination. His first book, Upsold (2020, University of Chicago Press) examined how real estate agents affect homeseekers’ decisions like where to buy and how much to pay. His writing has appeared in numerous academic journals and media outlets including The New York Times, Jacobin, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Anna Rhodes

Anna Rhodes is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University and is a faculty affiliate at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. She studies how social contexts matter for household residential decision-making, and the ways that housing, neighborhoods, and schools shape opportunities and outcomes for children and families. Her most recent work examines the residential decisions of households in the wake of disaster, highlighting how climate-related disasters increase economic vulnerability and inequality among residents in affected communities. Her book “Soaking the Middle Class: Suburban Inequality and Disaster Recovery” with Max Besbris was recently published by the Russell Sage Foundation. Her scholarly work can also be found in Social Forces, Social Problems, Urban Education, and the American Educational Research Journal, and she has contributed to The New York Times.